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Arabic-subtitled tape of bin Laden airs on Al-Jazeera network

Sunday, December 16, 2001

CAIRO, Egypt -- Excerpts of an Arabic-subtitled version of terror suspect Osama bin Laden's latest videotape released by the Pentagon aired Saturday on the popular Qatari-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera.

The Arabic transcript of the tape also appeared in several Arab newspapers.

The tape, complete with a full transcript of the conversations in Arabic between bin Laden and others following the Sept. 11 terror attacks, followed Thursday's initial release of the tape to the world.

Many in the Middle East had doubted the tape's authenticity due to its poor sound quality and footage. There was also wide skepticism over the English translations.

To address that, the Bush administration sent Arab-friendly versions to U.S. embassies in the Middle East for distribution to media outlets.

"I guess we'd say: 'Just let them watch it,"' State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Friday of the Arabic-subtitled copy.

Appearing in excerpts

On Saturday, the Arabic transcript appeared in several Arab newspapers, including Egypt's leading daily Al-Ahram, the Saudi daily Al-Watan and the London-based Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia said it distributed an Arabic transcript of the tape to local Saudi newspapers and the official Saudi Press Agency, and sent a copy of the video with scrolling Arabic text to state-run Saudi Television.

Abdul Rahman al-Hazzaa, news director at the Saudi station, said there was no plan to show the video, but the Arabic version may be used instead of the English version in the future.

Al-Jazeera aired excerpts of Arabic-subtitled tape as part of a Saturday program discussing the treatment of Muslims in the West and the tape's effect on Islam's image.

One excerpt showed bin Laden saying how the Sept. 11 hijackers knew they were only conducting a "martyrdom mission" until shortly before boarding their planes, while another showed bin Laden commenting on how he had calculated in advance the number of casualties.

During the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, U.S. officials have taken issue with Al-Jazeera's coverage as inflammatory propaganda. They have also criticized the influential station for airing taped statements said to be made inside Afghanistan by bin Laden and his aides.


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